As a narcissistic abuse survivor, do you ever find yourself feeling like you’ve completely lost control? Do you worry about everything, even the things you can’t do anything to change or control?
If you’re anything like I used to be, you might even find yourself feeling sick with worry sometimes. It doesn’t mean you’re bad or wrong – it just means you’re normal and that you’re not alone. Many survivors of narcissistic abuse find themselves overcome with worries, thanks in part to the abuse they’ve suffered.
Worrying is a habit that many of us believe is helpful in some way, but the fact is that that worrying only has a negative effect – and that is especially true when we’re worried about things that we have no ability to affect.
Worry less and live more with these strategies:
1. Put your worries in perspective. I know how it feels to worry, believe me. And when you’re dealing with a toxic person, worries can overwhelm you really quickly. But try to shift your perspective a bit here – this is something you CAN control! You are in charge of how you see yourself and how you choose to perceive the situations in your life. For example, if you’re still in a relationship with a toxic narcissist, you may be worrying about how you’re going to get out. Instead of focusing on the worry, focus on empowering yourself with a plan to escape and on how you’re going to live your new, narcissist-free life! Or, if you’re worried about something like your weight, stop focusing on worrying about it and start doing something to change your situation right away – stand up right now and do 10 jumping jacks, or maybe get online and research more effective ways to eat healthier.
2. Expect good things to happen.Going through narcissistic abuse makes you pretty pessimistic if you think about it. After all, every day you spend with a narcissist feels like your own personal hell – right? But here’s the thing: now that you’re moving on (or preparing to), you need to stop expecting the worst and start expecting the BEST. Seriously. The fact is that you can’t worry if you expect a positive outcome. When you assume things will turn out poorly, they often do. If you need to, make sure you’re as prepared for the worst as you can be- but be optimistic. Your worry isn’t going to change anything.
3. Understand what is and isn’t under your control. We spend a lot of time worrying about things we can’t change. What’s the point? Do what you can to mitigate your risk and then see what happens. Let go of the things you can’t control. For me, learning this stuff was a HUGE factor in creating positive personal change in my own life. The moment I gave myself permission to stop worrying about things I couldn’t control, I instantly felt a sense of relief and my life seemed to be so much less painful. This intentional practice is SO powerful when you enact it! (If this sounds like something you’d like to try, be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this article and try the journaling exercise I wrote for you).
4. Stay grounded in the present moment. It’s all about being mindful. Mindfulness is another (free!) powerful tool that we can use as survivors of narcissistic abuse. For the duration of our toxic relationships, we spent so much time feeling helpless and out of control that many of us found ourselves sort of living in our own heads. But if you intentionally change that and bring yourself into the present moment, you’ll find that your worries can disappear. Do this by paying attention to what you’re doing right now. Avoid thinking about tomorrow if it stresses you out. Use pattern interrupts if you need to do that to stay focused. Make the best use of your time each moment and the future will take care of itself. This video offers ideas on how to use pattern interrupts to your advantage.
5. Practice gratitude. I know that it feels like we don’t have a lot to be grateful for sometimes – especially when we’re still dealing with a toxic person in our lives, but those are the times when it may be most important to practice gratitude. When you realize how much you do have to be grateful for, the future isn’t as scary somehow. Remind yourself of how good your life is already, even if you start with things like “I’m grateful I woke up today.” You’ll worry less.
Remember: Gratitude is a habit. Take a moment each day and mentally list the things that you’re grateful for. This can do more to enhance your perspective than you think. I like to use my own gratitude practice as part of my intentional vibration management. Try starting your own gratitude journal. Want more information? This video will explain more about that and offer you tips on how to manage your own vibrations intentionally.
7. Look at the facts first. Statistically speaking, we worry about way more than we need to – or at least, more than we should. The fact is that you’ve probably worried about a lot of things over the course of your life, right? How many of them actually came true? And how often did you worry about things that you had no ability to control or even affect? You’ll likely discover that most of your worry was inaccurate or unnecessary.
Most of the things we worry about never happen. And even if they do, it’s not nearly as awful as we anticipate. Conclusion: Any time spent worrying is wasted time. If there’s something you can do to resolve the situation, just fix it. Life is short and worrying detracts greatly from life. Work to minimize the amount of time you spend worrying each day. You’ll enjoy life more, you’ll be less stressed, and you’ll be one step closer to living your very best life!
Stop Worrying Journaling Exercise
Ready to take your narcissistic abuse recovery to the next level? Grab your journal and do the following exercise. If you prefer, you can just consider the questions and meditate on them instead.
Take a moment to think about how much time you spend worrying each day. Has any of that worrying ever accomplished anything positive in your life?
Think about the things you worry about. Make a list of your concerns.
Evaluate your worries. Go back to your list and decide which of your worries are under your own control – as in, are there things you can do to change the outcome of the situation you’re worried about? If the answer is yes, take a minute to write down the actions you can take to change or affect the situation. If the answer is no, cross the worry off your list.
Imagine what you could do with all of that time and energy. Imagine how much happier and comfortable you would be if you could minimize the amount of time you spend worrying each day. What would it mean for you? How would your life look if you didn’t have so many worries? Take a few minutes to write down your ideas.
“People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates.” ~Thomas Szasz
Do you know who you are? Do you know what you believe? One of the biggest complaints I hear from survivors of narcissistic abuse as they progress in their recovery is that they don’t feel like they even know who they are anymore – and in some cases, they never did.
That’s because, while you may have had your own identity before you met the narcissist, over time, “you” disappeared and your identity became whatever the narcissist wanted it to be – often, an extension of him or her self.
Add in the fact that narcissists really don’t have an identity of their own and that they often sort of leech off of yours, or whomever the “flavor of the moment” happens to be – and well, you’re left spinning when the relationship ends. You aren’t sure where you end and the narcissist begins – or you just feel like “nothing” – like you don’t matter and you’re not important.
This is a normal perception for people who have been in abusive relationships, but it’s not accurate. You ARE important and you DO matter. And you’re right about the fact that the narcissist tried to completely erase your identity. However, unlike the narcissist, YOU will be able to find your true identity, because it’s still in there somewhere.
I told a story a few years ago about how I had gone through a bit of an existential crisis after going no contact with one of the primary narcissists in my own life. You can read that here, but the gist of it was that I had all of these inaccurate beliefs and off-base ideas in my head that had been sort of planted there by this person. It turned out that in many cases, I didn’t actually believe what I thought I believed. This, for me, was the first step in really taking back my identity: I had to release limiting beliefs that were holding me back.
Are you struggling with limiting beliefs, too?
Narcissists love to keep you “stuck” and one of their most effective ways of doing this is to gaslight and manipulate you into thinking you’re worthless. This negative mindset is reinforced with nearly every interaction you have with them. When you’re ready to take back your life, one of the most important things you can do is to release those “wrong” perceptions and to create new, healthier ones – and then to operate from there.
So, in a nutshell, you need to by-pass the negative mindset that you’ve adopted and shift to optimism and positivity. That’s because what you attract into your life is highly dependent on what you think and talk about most of the time, as well as the beliefs that you hold in your mind. This means that being positive (and intentionally choosing/curating your beliefs and understandings about yourself and the world around you) will attract more positive experiences and outcomes in your life, while negativity will attract more of the opposite. Implementing a practice of repeating positive affirmations every day can help you attract and manifest everything you desire in life.
You can also use my favorite practice of writing down or reciting to yourself 10 things you’re grateful for and 3 things you love about yourself – it’s the ultimate “vibe changer” – I call this intentional vibration management. I discuss that concept in more detail in this video.
Once you’ve released your limiting beliefs, you can start working on sort of “filling your vessel” or deciding what it is you really want for yourself and your life. Figuring out who you are and what you need to do in order to have a fulfilling life could be the most important and satisfying questions you’ll ever answer – and this is true no matter what your age and no matter where you are in your own narcissistic abuse recovery.
So how do you “find yourself” after a toxic relationship? How do you decide who you are and who you truly want to be?
Start here: try these suggestions to guide you in your search.
Clarify your values. Knowing your values helps you to make sound decisions and prioritize your activities. Consider how your values relate to your daily life. Look for opportunities to live in agreement with them. Summarize your philosophy into a personal values statement you can refer to when needed.
Understand your strengths. Do you know where your talents lie and what you feel passionate about? You’ll accomplish greater things with less stress when you choose a path that lets you leverage your main assets.
Build support. Finding yourself is tough work. You’ll need a sturdy network of family, friends, and colleagues you can rely on for advice and support. Being generous about sharing your resources with others increases the likelihood that they’ll want to do the same for you. **Note: since a lot of survivors of abuse find themselves isolated and removed from friends and family during the abuse, we often find ourselves feeling pretty alone afterward. That’s why I’ve created the SPANily, which includes several free online support groups and offers a great way for you to start building your own support network with people who truly understand where you are and where you’ve been.
Create flow states. What activities boost your energy levels and make you lose track of time? Whether you love playing the piano or solving physics equations, chances are these flow states will suggest the fields in which you can excel. I discussed the flow state for survivors in this video if you’d like some additional context.
5. Set goals. Having a destination in mind guides your steps and keeps you on track. Where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years?
Finding and Accepting Your Truths
Listen to yourself. Finding yourself is about living authentically. Pay attention to what your mind and body are telling you. Notice when you feel engaged and when you feel lost. Is there a pattern behind these situations? You have to learn how to trust yourself again! I made a video about that – you can check that out right here.
Accept your feelings. Acknowledge your emotions, even when they cause you discomfort. Trying to suppress the truth will backfire and produce more stress. When you accept your anger or sorrow, you can start thinking about positive options for dealing with it. Remember that during your abuse, your feelings were likely invalidated consistently. This is why it’s so important that you accept (and validate) your own feelings during recovery – because they do matter and they are worth having.
Ask your friends. While you’re cultivating self-knowledge, you may benefit from listening to how others view you. Their feedback may point out the qualities and habits that you overlook.
Read literature. Observing how characters in movies and novels behave may teach you how to handle similar events in your own life. You may find yourself viewing a long-standing conflict in a new light or experimenting with a different way of responding.
Welcome new experiences. Breaking out of your comfort zone is bound to reveal surprising facets of your personality. Taking an exotic vacation or leading a pilot project at work may inspire you to plan a bigger transformation.
Get spiritual. For many adults, spiritual beliefs play an essential role in defining themselves and their goals. If your faith or spirituality is central to your life, study the scriptures in your tradition, talk with other members of your community, and put your beliefs into action. If you’re not already involved with a particular brand of spirituality, now is a good time to start thinking about what resonates with you. Whether you’re into traditional religion, science or something else, get clear on what feels spiritual to you.
Finding yourself is an ongoing process that lasts a lifetime. Remember that you didn’t “lose yourself” overnight – and that it might take time to fully embrace who you are and to step into your power. But being willing to discover the truth about yourself and to accept yourself unconditionally, flaws and all, is the first step you need to take.
I realize that the idea of unconditional self-acceptance and unconditional self-love is foreign to most survivors of narcissistic abuse, so I am also going to share this video with you, where I offer some tips on how to develop rock-solid self-confidence that leads to unapologetic, unconditional self-acceptance and self-love.
You can do this. If you’re still feeling confused and don’t know where to begin, consider downloading my free “Life Reset Button,” which will help you to really dig in and discover your true passion and purpose in life. Are you ready?
“Our self-respect tracks our choices. Every time we act in harmony with our authentic self and our heart, we earn our respect. It is that simple. Every choice matters.” ~Dan Coppersmith
In theory, putting yourself first sounds like a simple thing. Just do it, right? But it’s not always so easy, is it?
If you’re like most survivors of narcissistic abuse, chances are you think that putting yourself first is a little selfish. After having dealt with a toxic narcissist who could blame you? Narcissists are notorious for tearing us down and making us think we don’t matter – and that THEY do. Not to mention the society that teaches us that we’re supposed to be selfless – all the time. People are often praised for being unselfish, right? It’s not easy to shake off that conditioning. But it’s important for your health and wellbeing that you learn to put those fears aside and start putting yourself first.
Living a balanced and fulfilling life requires a balance between your needs and desires, and those of others. You’ll be in better shape to support other people if you fill your cup first. You will exhaust yourself if you run around everywhere helping everyone. It’s likely to make you feel overwhelmed, even angry and resentful. And that’s no help to anyone!
Did you know? Putting yourself first is good for you! It’s true. Studies have shown that putting yourself first has a range of benefits including
Being taken more seriously and respected by others
Your resilience in dealing with stress is enhanced
You have more control over your life
Your self-esteem will improve
Better physical and mental health
Putting yourself first can be as easy as learning to take responsibility for your own choices by being assertive about your needs. One of the most powerful ways of being assertive is learning to say no calmly and straightforwardly. Are you able to say no when you need to?
Journaling Exercise: Take a few minutes to answer the following questions in your journal.
Does saying no make you feel uncomfortable? Why or why not?
Do you feel like you have the right to say no when you need to? If you said no, are you willing to change that perception?
Can you think of a time that you wanted to say no but couldn’t? In hindsight, what could you have done differently?
What are some phrases you can use to say no when you need to? Write them down and commit them to memory for future reference.
Filling your cup
I don’t know about you, but when I’m not taking care of myself, I find myself feeling DRAINED and EXHAUSTED. The fact is that taking care of yourself is essential as no one can do their best if they’re exhausted. Pushing yourself past your limits will make you sick. In these times of 24/7 availability and communication, it is more necessary than ever to make sure you get the rest and downtime you need.
Filling your cup means taking time out for you, whether that’s spending a quiet evening watching TV, or a weekend hiking in the mountains. It means getting enough sleep; it means setting some boundaries and doing what’s right for you.
Setting a good example
If this still isn’t sitting right with you, consider this. Would you want your friends and loved ones running themselves ragged after you? What do you say when you see your friend or family member is stressed out or overwhelmed? Chances are you’d tell them to relax, right?
The people in your life who have been toxic aren’t really relevant here. But YOU are, and YOU matter, my friend. If it helps, think about what kind of role model you are to your kids if you have any. Not only will they follow your example they’ll pick up on your mood. If you’re stressed out and overworked, your kids will think that’s normal.
All of this begins with having the confidence to believe that we deserve to be treated with love and respect. We first need to recognize our own value and to begin to treat our SELVES with love and respect. It’s difficult, but you really can learn how to unconditionally love and accept yourself. And it is a beautiful thing!
Start with building your personal confidence.
Confidence is an inside game. True confidence comes from a sincere acceptance and love for yourself that isn’t influenced by outside forces. From the inside out, you love and appreciate who and what you are as it ever-evolves into something better. Loving yourself in this way creates space for nurturing when you aren’t feeling your best because no one better than you knows what you need.
Even the most confident people have bad days. From physical aches and pains to emotional stress, confidence doesn’t excuse you from life’s little setbacks. Confidence does, however, make taking care of yourself a bit easier. This is where self-care comes in.
Self-care is the art of nurturing and participating in activities that promote wellness, restoration, and balance. Self-care includes, but isn’t limited to, beauty, hygiene, personal interests, artistic outlets, mental health, physical health, and much more. Self-care is recognizing and responding to what your mind and body needs to be its best at any given time.
Let’s take a look at what self-care is:
Let’s take a look at what self-care is not:
Confidence comes from knowing yourself and what you want. Confident people are fully aware of what they need to feel refreshed and better about themselves. They also understand the value of self-care and don’t feel guilty about caring for themselves, whether that means taking time alone or spending income on a massage. Their worthiness isn’t tied to the costs for self-care… their health is.
There are different sorts of self-care depending on the need.
Physical (Body)– Physical self-care includes activities such as healthy eating, exercise, and hygienic care. Taking care of yourself may include shopping at a farmer’s market or eating organic. It might look like using high-grade essential oils or buying a titanium bike for your riding hobby. Physically caring for yourself may include monthly spa days or bi-weekly pedicures. Whatever the vehicle for pouring into yourself, it is worth it and it is vital.
Emotional (Mind)– Emotional self-care includes activities that restore your mental and physical health and give you back the clarity that is lost when overwhelm and anxiety creep in. From taking in a movie or date-night with your spouse, emotional self-care is as important as any other form of care.
Spiritual (Soul)– Spiritual self-care is the nurturing of your spirit and soul. Depending on your beliefs or your focus, this may include a religious practice, but it also includes the arts, travel, and expanding your social conscience and awareness.
Confidence comes from within and it is from within we are restored. As survivors, we must place a high premium on self-care and make it an integrated part of our lives. Use self-care to feel better about yourself and to model to others the benefits of caring for yourself so you can create the life you truly want and deserve. Isn’t it about time?
This is exactly what happens when you’re dealing with recovering from a toxic relationship, and exactly what you can do to begin to overcome it so you can take back your power and your life in the process! Not just standard “think positive’ advice, but real, meaningful tips that you can start using right now that will help you learn how to handle difficult people in a way that keeps you safe and brings back your personal power.